Contemporary Culture in Tel Aviv

August 23rd, 2019

The heart of contemporary Israel derives from the bustling streets and vibrant colors of Tel Aviv, a city celebrated for the gold sands lining the Mediterranean Sea, the eclectic culinary masterpieces that fill the streets with traditional aromas of falafel and hummus, as well as savory scents of the likes of French, Chinese, Italian, Thai, and Colombian dishes. The architecture shines a charming white in the hot desert sun glinting against the bright facades and adding texture that supports Tel Aviv’s nickname as the “White City”. The urban architecture constructed between the 1930s and 1950s represents an outstanding Modern Movement of a new and exciting cultural aesthetic.

Tel Aviv is a city of youthful energy showcasing an abundance of museums with an appetite for artifacts and art representing the range of historic diversity from the heritage of the 12th century BC to the cultural movements of modern-day Israel. Community-involved graffiti, neighborhood performance spaces, large-scale concert halls, underground operas, and avant-garde venues represent only a fraction of the historic and contemporary events Tel Aviv celebrates. Exhibitions, open-air galleries, and a sleepless sentiment allows any and every moment in the city to shine with a unique, local perspective, from chic bars that turn the sunset into an unforgettable event to a beach filled with locals enjoying the warm sands, markets filled with the aromas of pomegranates and dates to residents fully indulged in a fresh breakfast at a dog-friendly café. Tel Aviv rejoices in its endless vibrant ambiance with an unrivaled contemporary culture you must experience.

1. The Tayelet (Beach Promenade)
The alluring sands and waters of the Tayelet

Tel Aviv’s beach promenade known as the Tayelet is the city’s most iconic image with three miles of gorgeous beaches lined by restaurants, cafes, hotels, and enticing architecture that connects the Old Tel Aviv Port to Jaffa along a car-free pathway open to pedestrians and cyclists. The air carries hints of sea salt in the breeze and the beaches shimmer with golden sands set against the backdrop of warm, crystal-clear azure waters. The Tayelet remains one of the best places to relax and enjoy the contemporary lifestyle of Tel Aviv by either strolling between the Old Port and Jaffa, cycling for exceptional views, sunbathing in the Mediterranean light, or playing Matkot with locals, which is a game similar to squash. The best way to absorb the beauty and life of the Tayelet is by lingering along with the countless cafes or gorgeous beaches around sunset for the spectacular view of the shifting colors that spread across the horizon reflected in the water and along pristine structures of the White City.  
2. Neve Tzedek

Israel's international markets hold goods originating from far and wide  

While the Neve Tzedek is technically Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhood, it feels fresh as it represents how the city combines a historic existence with contemporary life. The streets and buildings of Neve Tzedek have returned to the prominent eye of the city’s chic and trendy restaurants and selection of the best ice cream shops known around all of Tel Aviv. Stylish boutique shops and charming facades cause a dazzling confusion of the modern culture mixed with the historic aesthetic amongst colorful murals and popular cafes, as well as art galleries adorned with local and international working artists. Restored homes date back to the 19th century and remnants of the old Ottoman railway retain a unique appeal surrounded by the wide cobbled lanes and stylish restaurants adding fragrant touches of garlic and cucumber to the air.

3. Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The intricate walls of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art capturing the artistic culture of Tel Aviv

The beauty of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is its ability to balance history with modernity through a display that spans the 16th century to the present. The museum itself opened in 1932 with an ultra-modern building bathed in bright natural light showcasing the sophisticated architecture perfect for presenting the diversity of works in the permanent and temporary exhibits. The collection boasts famous names such as Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock while also possessing the largest collection of works by Israeli artists in the world such as a stunning assortment of early 20th-century prints by Alois Breyer, in addition to the architectural renderings of Ukraine’s wooden synagogues. The museum represents Tel Aviv’s deep connection with art and art lovers, architecture and architecture enthusiasts, as well as the dynamic beauty of the city beyond the soft sands and clear waters.

4. Jaffa

The cobblestone streets of Jaffa holding history within its cracks 

The historic and charming streets of Jaffa represent Israel’s elaborate past with preserved winding cobblestone lanes overlooking the old marina. The golden buildings that edge the water resemble the colors of desert sands with restored stone architecture accentuating the depth of the past that derives from the preserved acropolis. The enticing neighborhood has become well-known for its artists and artistic ambiance wrapped in the relaxed feelings of a slower, tranquil pace contrasting the bustling streets of greater Tel Aviv through its classic charisma. Vendors of the genuine souk hosting clothing, artwork, and produce call out to passersby as the water of the Old Port lap against the seasoned quays. Boutique shops and lively restaurants hide within the warrens of old labyrinthine neighborhood crowned with the bell tower of St. Peter’s Monastery with the narrower lanes funneling you through the feeling of a secret city where jewelry-makers and antique vendors share the familiar legend of Jonah and the whale, with Jaffa acting as the point from where Jonah weighed anchor.

5. Old Tel Aviv Port

Old Tel Aviv Port, home of boats, shops, the boardwalk, and other tourist attractions

The former prestige of Tel Aviv’s Old Port dates back to the 1930s and has been reborn as a trendy waterfront neighborhood brimming with shops and cafes. The boardwalk thrives with Tel Aviv’s teenagers and young adults throughout the day displaying the vibrant and welcoming ambiance for which the city is known. Private art galleries represent the active artists from around Israel while the indoor market remains a popular destination for visitors and locals alike. Families wander the walkways on the weekends eager to enjoy the free live concerts and other family-friendly outdoor entertainment, taking advantage of the warm, dry months. Cozy cafes, trendy restaurants, and chic seaside bars have become the focal point along the wooden docks each offering sensational views over the water and spectacular destinations to watch the city pass you by with the experience that represents the contemporary culture of Tel Aviv.

6. Carmel Market

The many flavors presented in the Carmel Market 

Carmel Market adds an extra layer of vibrancy to one of Tel Aviv’s most lively neighborhoods as the largest open-air market in the city where crowds converge amid the mouthwatering aromas of orange and lemon citrus overtaking the scents of grilling shawarma or fried falafel from popular food vendors. Colorful spices on display represent the long history of trade between Europe and Asia with the dynamic fragrances offering tremendous texture to the air with hints of heat, cinnamon, and pink pepper. Locals hustle through the market stalls haggling with traditional vendors who offer bright produce while bakeries offer a mixture of typical local treats and popular international sweets from a flaky caramelized pastry known as jachnun to buttery croissants. Carmel Market celebrates Tel Aviv’s contemporary cosmopolitan culture as experienced through the mouthwatering cuisine highlighting local and international recipes focused on traditional and modern tastes. 

7. Helena Rubinstein Pavilion

Pristine greenery and fountains in the Gan Yaakov park

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion is an extension of the Tel Aviv Museum and acts as the best place in the city to view contemporary Israeli art and artists. The structure feels like a secret you can discover hidden within the greenery of Gan Yaakov, one of Tel Aviv’s smallest parks. An elevated bridge and raised walkways divide the tree canopy connecting the pavilion to the Culture Hall, which houses the city’s philharmonic. The alternating exhibits highlight the movement, evolution, and persistently changing ideas of contemporary art by showcasing artistic works, designs, and architecture that all embrace the idea that art comes from mediums beyond the initial spectrum of pencil and paint.

8. Dizengoff Circle
The eye-drawing Fire and Water Fountain sitting in the middle of the Dizengoff Circle

Life around Tel Aviv derives from the remarkable ambiance of its central plaza, Dizengoff Circle which overtakes two levels of raised platforms adorned with a modern work of art known as the Fire and Water Fountain. The plaza and street are named for the city’s first mayor after Tel Aviv officially separated from Jaffa with the walkways lined by the Habima Theater and cultural center, as well as the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art. Many locals and visitors consider Dizengoff the “Champs-Elysees of Tel Aviv,” due to the remarkable boutiques, restaurants, artwork, and designer stores accentuated by the arching waters of the fountain leading to the entrance of Tel Aviv’s first shopping mall, the Dizengoff Center. On Thursday nights and Fridays before sundown, the center brims with delicious aromas of homecooked meals from makeshift food stalls offering takeaway dishes before Shabbat in front of the more than 400 stores where locals and visitors can find typical Israeli dishes in addition to international cuisine.